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Friends Against Scams: how can communities help stop scams?

Community rally

Information is knowledge – and knowledge is power – right? So could more information and greater awareness be key to curbing scams? We’ve invited Hayley Barnes from Friends Against Scams to tell us why they think this is the solution.

Everyone has a scam story to tell. Maybe you’ve received dodgy texts or letters claiming you’ve won a million pounds for a competition you never entered.

Scams like these might seem harmless if they’re something obvious we know to ignore. However, for some, the ending to a scam story can be far more tragic. Scams are affecting millions of us every year as we hand over our hard-earned money to criminals who deceive us with the promise of winning money, having a change of luck or getting a good deal on a new driveway from someone who just happened to be passing by.

Part of the issue is a lack of awareness. That’s why the National Trading Standards Scams Team has created Friends Against Scams (FAS), an initiative that seeks to educate to improve general scam awareness in our communities.

Communities standing up to scams

What FAS wants to do is involve everyone and inspire people to ‘Take a Stand Against Scams’ and make us a scam-free nation.

There’s often the misunderstanding that the people who respond to scams have been foolish as opposed to victimised. However, criminals often target scams at individuals who are already in vulnerable situations. They are also clever at changing their scams to stay one step ahead. We’re all at risk to falling victim; our research shows that although the average age of a scam victim is 75, the youngest recorded is 19 years old. All ages are at risk.

Beyond understanding how people can be targeted, it’s important to be supportive of those who have fallen victim to a scam. It’s our responsibility as grandparents, parents, children, colleagues and friends etc. to look out and support those around us. We’re all responsible for looking out for and supporting those around us.

This is especially important as it’s often difficult for scam victims to speak out and share their stories. Many report feeling isolated; too ashamed to talk about their experiences. They quickly lose confidence in their ability to question the truthfulness of the communications they receive. The situation is complicated but the need to resolve it is extremely important.

Helping to stop scams

The good news is that programs like FAS can raise awareness. The important things are that we:

  • Provide people with the information to tell apart the different types of scams (telephone, mail, online, and doorstep) and also recognise a scam from genuine communication.
  • Help people feel confident in knowing where to report possible scams.
  • Make people aware of the potential signs that those around them may be a scam victim.
  • Provide people with practical tips to help prevent and support scam victims.
  • Inspire them to spread the message to friends, family and colleagues.

Pretty much everyone has a scam story to tell so if we all ‘Take a Stand Against Scams’ we can make sure all of them have a happy ending.

Do you have a scam story to tell? How confident do you feel in spotting a scam and knowing where to report it?

This is a guest post by Friends Against Scams, an initiative set up to raise awareness to scams through education. All views expressed here are those of Friends Against Scams’ and not necessarily those shared by Which?

Comments
Member

I am amazed at the folks who come on Which? who still seem oblivious to the many scams that bombard us daily.

There are a few TV programmes that highlight them, but unless you specifically watch the programme, many people won’t see them.

I can recall one TV advert where a bank tells you it will never ring you, but there are many more scams and folks need to know about them. I would like to see scam infomercials before or in the middle of popular TV programmes.

Why not invite film clubs to make them? Nearly everyone can take video with a mobile phone so even children could be persuaded to have a go and see their contribution on TV. A large repertoire of short films could keep people interested instead of turning off at the first sign of a commercial or so-called celebrity.

I have seen programmes sponsored by Which? Could the sponsorship not include a short scam warning?

Member

Thanks for your comment Alfa – that’s a great idea about the inviting film clubs to help! This is definitely something we could look into.

Member
Gavin says:
2 November 2016

Hi Hayley, this is a great post. I have been a victim to a scam and felt really cheated afterwards. I managed to get my money back from the bank but I can imagine if I was more vulnerable I wouldn’t have known what to do. I have just completed the training on your website which was really insightful and have now officially become a friend- I feel very honoured:-). It highlights that by looking out for each other and by talking to our neighbours we can prevent people from ending up it situations like mine (or much worse). Thank you !!

Member

Thanks for your comment Gavin. I’m glad you found the training helpful and beneficial and sorry to hear you have been a victim to scams in the past. Hopefully now you feel more confident in spotting scams for the future!

Member

Successful scams are based on the second phrase of the first point: the inability to recognise a scam from genuine communication. If that can be cracked then the rest is easy.

Member

I completely agree Ian. People know scams exist but it is so difficult to recognise what is a scam and what is genuine. That’s why we started Friends Against Scams – to get people talking about their experiences and knowing what to look out for in the future.

Member
Jenn McKenzie says:
23 December 2016

Because scammers can readily get information from social media and other public sources, they can customise the approach. I’ve received two calls today (both show up as International origin), and about a month ago, three or four very persistent and antagonistic calls in one day, from phishers claiming to be my ISP, BT. They wanted first to verify that I was the account holder and then tried to tell me my internet service was being hacked into in the middle of the night and used illegally by a fraudster. Thankfully, I know better and told them this time I would call BT myself and hung up. I did call BT, and they verified no calls had been made to me by them and they showed no problems with my service. The key is that no company with which you hold an account will ever call you like that. If you ever receive an email or phone call of that sort, just delete or hang up, then look up the contact information on their web page and call them directly to see if there is a problem or to report the attempted scam.

Member

I have no problem with NGO,s helping British citizens with scammers but in Convo- what can be done to stamp out nuisance calls in Scotland -Post 8 I gave just ONE example of what the US GOVERNMENT are doing to help the US citizens which was actual prosecution of the said company as well as closing it down and I asked WHAT is the UK government doing to protect British citizens . It is significant -to me at least , that nobody replied to it as it was too forthright . So I will ask again – what is the British government going to do about it as the American government defends its citizens . Dont say to me –its “impossible ” I know otherwise I also know BB uses techniques the same way and this affects the non-response of our government , yet the US -Home of Capitalism defends its citizens . Much as I criticize the US I give it plaudits for doing so and for the fact more information can be obtained by US citizens in general . Track-,em – prosecute ,em – jail ,em -no ifs-buts-maybe,s otherwise in 5 years it will still be the same or much worse.

Member

Hi Duncan. Thanks for your comment. The ICO is going to be cracking down on nuisance calls and hopefully, along with initiatives like Friends Against Scams, we can help people feel confident in putting the phone down and not responding as the more you engage with scams, the more correspondence you will receive.

Member

Thanks for replying Hayley, at least I can say now somebody did.

Member

Someone needs to take facebook and other social media sites to task. I describe facebook as a scammers paradise due to the large number of scams that go on there daily. And even when you take time to highlight scam posts being made by fake accounts 7 times out of 10 facebook reply that no rules have been broken.

And as I’ve mentioned on other posts a short 5 min prog similar to the old Police 5 but dealing with the latest scams wouldn’t go amiss. A simple new law to force all TV stations to run them at different times of the day, would help. Maybe even get soap operas to include a scam or 2 every now and again.

Too many many enter these social media scams with the attitude I’ve go nothing to lose so what its its a scam as they clearly don’t realise the impact of having their personal details out there at the hands of scammers.

Member

I agree, William. Scams on social media are a massive issue right now and so hard to monitor on the internet. I think education is a key to combating scams and having a story on a soap is a brilliant idea. It would really help to raise awareness which is what Friends Against Scams is all about!

Member
bishbut says:
3 November 2016

Whatever the Scam might be some people will always fall for it because they do not take heed of any advice from anywhere or anybody How many people still fall
for the most known about and published scam Some people cannot be helped in any way

Member

Make it part of primary school education Bishbut.